Gateway to the Classics: The Sandman: More Farm Stories by William J. Hopkins
The Sandman: More Farm Stories by  William J. Hopkins

The Hatchet Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a little track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

One day, about the middle of summer, it was little John's birthday, when he was six years old; and he was out by the shed, playing. He had some grass and some hens' feathers that he had found, and he had stuck them in his hair, and he had put some mud on his face, and he was pretending that he was an Indian, with eagle's feathers in his hair and his face painted. So, while little John was a pretend Indian, hiding behind a little bush, Uncle John came walking along, and he held one hand behind him, and he called to little John.


Then little John jumped up and gave a great yell, as loud as he could, and he ran at Uncle John. And Uncle John laughed to see the feathers in his hair and the mud on his face, and he said, "Here's a present for you, John." Then he held out the hand that had been behind him, and there was a little hatchet. And little John took the hatchet, and he was so excited and so pleased to get a real hatchet, that he hardly remembered to thank his father. But Uncle John knew, and he was glad that little John was pleased, so he laughed again, and told little John not to cut himself with the hatchet, and then he went away again.

So little John went back and hid behind his bush, and pretended that he was the Indian and the hatchet was his tomahawk, and he looked around to see what there was that could be pretend people. Now there was a place on the shed that Uncle John had just mended. It was a place where the wheels of the wagons had knocked off the boards, and Uncle John had put on some new boards that were bright. Little John saw these new boards, and they were very bright and shining in the sunlight, and he thought they would be good for pretend people.

So he began to crawl out the way he thought real Indians would do. He had his hatchet in one hand, and he crawled down as flat as he could in the grass, so that none of the pretend people could see him, and he went very slowly.


He crawled down as flat as he could in the grass.

He crawled along from the bush, that was near the wall of the garden, as far as the little wagon track. There wasn't any grass in the wagon track, and there was only a little between the track and the shed. So, when little John got as far as the wagon track, he jumped up, and he made a great noise, the kind he thought Indians would make, and he ran right at the bright boards that he was pretending were people, and he waved his hatchet about and whacked it right into the boards, a lot of times.

Aunt Deborah was in the kitchen, getting dinner, and she heard little John yelling and she heard the noise of the whacks, and she ran right out, because she was afraid that little John was getting hurt. But when she saw him whacking the new boards with his hatchet, she was angry and sorry, and she called out to him, and made him stop whacking the boards. She said, "John, see what great cuts you are making in those nice new boards that your father has just put on."

And little John stopped being an Indian and looked and saw that he had made a lot of great cuts in the new boards, and he was sorry. Then he went with Aunt Deborah to the kitchen door, and into the house. And she took his new hatchet, and put it away until the afternoon of the next day, when he wouldn't be so excited about it. And then she washed the mud off his face, because it was almost dinner-time; but she didn't say any more about the boards.

When Uncle John came in to dinner, little John went up to him, and he said, "Father, I want to show you something." And Uncle John wondered what it was, but he went out again with little John. So little John led his father to the place where the new boards were, and he showed the great cuts where he had whacked with his hatchet, and he said, "I was pretending Indian, and I forgot. I'm sorry." Then Uncle John gave little John a pat on the head, and he smiled and said, "No great harm done, John. But be more careful." And little John said, "Yes, I will."

Then little John took hold of his father's hand, and they went in at the kitchen door to their dinner.

And that's all.

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